Review: Caliban’s War

Posted 18 July, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

Caliban’s War (The Expanse #2)
By: James S.A. Corey
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy

We are not alone.

The alien protomolecule is clear evidence of an intelligence beyond human reckoning. No one knows what exactly is being built on Venus, but whatever it is, it is vast, powerful, and terrifying.

When a creature of unknown origin and seemingly impossible physiology attacks soldiers on Ganymede, the fragile balance of power in the Solar System shatters. Now, the race is on to discover if the protomolecule has escaped Venus, or if someone is building an army of super-soldiers.

Jim Holden is the center of it all. In spite of everything, he’s still the best man for the job to find out what happened on Ganymede. Either way, the protomolecule is loose and Holden must find a way to stop it before war engulfs the entire system.

I’ve read and re-read the first book in the Expanse series, Leviathan Wakes (review) but for some reason took my sweet time picking up this novel. I’m not entirely sure why it took me forever to pick it up but with the third book, Abaddon’s Gates, published last month, I decided it was time to read this book. I’m sort of in the middle of the end-of-semester blitz of presentations and deadlines for the two publications I write for and this book was perfect for a bit off unwinding entertainment.

Caliban’s War picks up about a year or two after the events of the first novel (I wasn’t too clear about the timeline, I might’ve missed it mentioned when I started reading) and the relationship between Earth and Mars and the Outer settlements is very fragile; one wrong move and everything would go straight to hell. Some strange events on Ganymede would propel this fragile relationship into the danger zone. It’s always interesting to read the political dynamic between the three political powers especially as you could never quite figure out who to root for because each of the governments are doing pretty slimy dealings behind everyone’s backs. Unlike the first book though readers finally have a glimpse of the political side of the situation through Avasarala’s POV chapters.

I’ve read some reviews criticising that the plot of this novel runs very similar to the first novel and in a way, that’s true. The protomolecule is back and wrecking havoc, someone’s daughter is missing and there’s all-powerful industries at work behind all the weirdness that’s happening. I honestly can’t see the stories working out any differently as the protomolecule arc is building into something really sinister that will no doubt play out in Abaddon’s Gate. The story about the missing child ties in with that growing plot line but also mirrors Jim Holden’s storyline, which has taken a dark turn since Leviathan Wakes. Having survived the events on Eros station, it seemed he too had to undergo a test of fire similar to Miller’s. I felt bad for his character because he seemed rather adrift with what he wanted to do and how he viewed the world and was annoyed that people were giving him so much flack for his perspective and the way he felt for most of the novel.

There’s some character development on the part of the secondary characters we were introduced to in the first novel, particularly Amos. I did not expect to learn so much about him but he plays such a major role that I really grew to like the character. We’re also learning bits and pieces about Naomi; one of her last scenes revealed something about her that I’m curious whether it will be explored or not in the next novel.

We’re also introduced to a number of new characters and POV chapters. Avasarala was my favourite by far; not only do we get a glimpse of what’s happening on the political spectrum of the storyline but the character is an absolute hoot to read. She’s an older character and a woman in a prominent position of power and she is so blunt, I can’t tell whether I should cringe every time she says something really blunt and disarming or whether to punch the air in jubilation. For a character in that position of authority and age, it cracks me up to no end how vulgar she can be with her word choice but there is no doubt that she can rip you a new one if you mess with her. I really enjoyed reading her chapters.

For the most part I also enjoyed reading Prax’s POV chapters, the reader gains a sense of his desperation to find his daughter no matter the cost. Bobbie’s chapters were good too, it was nice to see so many strong female characters get their own POVs in this novel. But from the three new perspectives, Bobbie’s was actually my least favourite, probably because she’s such a straightforward character; what you see is what you get and unlike Avasarala, the character depth isn’t as complex or compelling to read. Nonetheless it was great to see such a kick-ass character in the series.

Overall Caliban’s War was an entertaining read and a great continuation to the Expanse series. It might’ve slowed down a bit somewhere early on in the novel but given that it’s a follow-up to Leviathan Wakes, the pacing and the storytelling was just as interesting and it brought the story now to the “Oh eff” level. Can’t wait to really delve into the third novel!

Rating: ★★★★☆

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4 Responses to “Review: Caliban’s War”

  1. Hey Li! Random unrelated question: what plug-in do you use to cross-post from WordPress to LJ? I installed LJXP but can’t get it to work πŸ™

    • Hi Lorraine! I’m using Livejournal Crossposter (Version 2.3.3 by Arseniy Ivanov, Evan Broder, Corey DeGrandchamp, Stephanie Leary)

      Hope all is well with you! πŸ™‚ I haven’t properly gone on LJ for a while now so I’m a bit behind on my flist *blushes*

  2. That’s what I’m using too. Ugh, I swear, I never have a smooth installation of anything!

    I read my LJ list pretty much every day but I have commented or posted in months. I’m setting up a new blog at my domain which I hope to give more attention to. Who knows how long my resolve will last though πŸ˜‰

    • That’s weird! Like, it just won’t cross-post? I can’t remember if there was something specific I had to make sure that was checked off when I first installed it…

      Oooh, looking forward to your shiny new blog! πŸ˜€

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